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September 2011

August 2011

The Cleanup: Don't let Irene do more damage

Koch Peter 2 Posted by Peter Koch

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, here in the Northeast, property cleanup is at the top of everyone's to-do list.  Make sure to take the time to conduct job hazard analysis for the cleanup tasks and determine if you have the internal resources and skills to complete the cleanup safely.

Storm cleanup is one of the most dangerous tasks that can be performed with a chainsaw, placing the operator and fellow workers in challenging and unpredictable environments.  Unstable elements in the canopy (including as widow makers and spring poles), not to mention uneven ground and exposed root systems are all real hazards for the chainsaw operator.  Experience and highly developed skills are the last lines of defense for the chainsaw operator.

Mechanical logging reduces the exposure to many hazards that the manual logger has limited ability to control.  If your chainsaw operators are occasional users with limited experience and training, or your internal resources are unable to meet the demands of extensive storm cleanup, sub-contracting with a reputable logging company will transfer the risk and protect your most valuable resource, your employees.

If some level of cleanup at your operations is to be done with a chainsaw, you should complete a job hazard analysis which will help you review hazards and controls with your operators. For a sample job hazard analysis form, go to MEMIC Safety Director, or try this link to the OSHA website.

Putting your best footwear forward: Set a policy and follow through

Clendenning Donna Posted by Donna Clendenning

Often employers tell me that they are interested in developing a workplace footwear policy, but they don’t know how to define “appropriate footwear” and they know that any definition will likely cause disagreement with their workers.

Appropriate footwear, of course, depends on your work environment and any hazards your organization identifies. OSHA will tell you the same thing.  According to its standard (1910.132), the employer must decide (and document) what is appropriate foot protection.

You may find in an office environment that open-toed sandals with heels are completely appropriate. Would that same shoe be reasonable to wear working in the community with clients, or at a table saw?

My take is strictly from a safety standpoint.

When employees are working in the community or in an environment where they may need to walk fast/run, or are working around machinery, then flip flops, backless shoes (such as Crocs) or heels are not appropriate. Even in the office, shoes with straps are certainly safer than a strapless shoe.

 I once learned of an employee wearing Crocs who got one of the holes in the shoe caught, causing the employee to fall, severely injuring a knee. I also know of employees wearing flip flops who have been injured as a result of the footwear falling off. The desire to wear comfortable and fashionable footwear is understood, but at what cost to an employee’s safety? 

When it comes time to the write a footwear policy, examine what your organization believes in, put it on paper, notify your employees, and most importantly, follow through. The disharmony from employees that you may get will hurt only for a minute compared with the pain of a fall caused by inappropriate footwear.

If you need help with assessments you may contact a MEMIC Safety Management Specialist or contact a safety footwear company such as Shoes for Crews at

You can also access MEMIC’s Personal Protective Equipment Assessment tool at, under the Safety Director link.

Chemical communication: Revised OSHA regs in September

LaRochelle Greg 2 Posted by Greg LaRochelle

OSHA is in the final rule stages of revising its Hazard Communication Standard -- commonly referred to as the “Right-To-Know” regulation -- to align with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).  While the GHS itself is not a standard or regulation, it is a system that defines and classifies chemical hazards adopting a standard set of rules for communicating physical, health, and environmental hazards through a uniform format.  

The purpose of GHS is to promote efficiency between countries and government agencies in disseminating chemical hazard information to users.  For example, in the U.S. manufacturers and importers of chemicals are required to comply with multiple sets of regulations from agencies such as OSHA, the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.  The benefits of GHS include improving worker health and safety, facilitating trade, reducing costs, and enhancing emergency response to chemical incidents.

Currently, U.S. employers using chemicals, chemical mixtures, and other hazardous substances are required under OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to have a written program, ensure proper labeling of containers, acquire and maintain material safety data sheets, and inform employees through training on the hazards of the chemical products/hazardous substances used or encountered in their workplace.  The revised HCS will preserve these elements but adapt them to the GHS system.

For example, material safety data sheets will have a standard 16 section format as opposed to today’s variation (some having 9 sections or more) and the word “material” will be dropped.  Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) and labels will be required to have signal words such as “Danger” or “Warning” along with hazard pictograms depending upon the class and category of hazards.

OSHA’s final rule on the revised Hazard Communication Standard is scheduled to be published in September.  A two-year transition period has been proposed for training with a three-year period for full implementation.

To meet the updated standard, employers should be prepared to:

  • Acquire a GHS-compliant Safety Data Sheet for each chemical in their inventory and re-label chemical containers;
  • Update their written hazard communication program; and
  • Train employees on changes to the standard. 

For more information on the Globally Harmonized System for Hazard Communication go to and .

The Bite Stuff: Dogs not always a worker's best friend

Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt

"Excuse me, does your dog bite?"

Although a familiar line from a very funny Peter Sellers movie, the underlying subject matter is of real importance to those industries exposed to potentially aggressive dogs.  According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year accounting for five percent of all emergency room visits.  Children are the most common victims, but workers who visit homes to perform their jobs are certainly at risk.  There are more than 43 million households who own dogs, representing 38 percent of the homes in the country. 

If your employees conduct business at private homes or other locations where dogs may be present, it is appropriate to have consistent policies in place to protect them.  Workers at risk include package delivery personnel, visiting nurses, utility workers, and, yes, mail carriers.  In fact there are 5,700 mail carriers bitten each year.  So what are the prevention steps? 

Knowing the household owns a dog will give the worker a step up.  Pre-work questionnaires or work orders can include this information.  Requiring dog owners to keep their dogs restrained during scheduled visits is a good solution to the problem. 

If the above is not possible then ensure employees follow these steps:

  • Dogs are protective of territory. Be aware of their presence and do not advance if the dog appears to be threatening or agitated.  Delay the visit if the dog has not been properly restrained.
  • If threatened, don’t scream or yell.  Avoid eye contact and back away slowly until the dog is out of sight.  Never turn your back and never run.  The dog’s instinct is to chase and catch.
  • If a dog is about to attack you, try to place something between you and the dog such as a purse, a backpack, or a tool. 

Don’t be fooled by the standard statement, “My dog won’t bite”.  Any dog will revert to instinct if threatened or scared.  Treat dogs as you would an electric power line or a loaded firearm; never assume they are safe.  

The education of dog owners is critical to the protection of any worker entering the property.  Owners should be caring for these animals appropriately to reduce the likelihood of aggressive behavior.  Check out the resources below for tips on proper dog care that can be shared with your customers or clients who own dogs.  Dogs are “man’s best friend” and can be wonderful companions for life.  However, they can also present a very real threat to workers who are unknown to them and who trespass on their territory.                            The Center for Disease Control                        The US Postal Service        Prevent the Bite, a non-profit dedicated to preventing dog bites                       American Veterinary Medical Association